PARIS, March 17 (Xinhua) -- A French soldier was killed in fighting Islamists in Northern Mali, bringing the number of death of French soldiers since its military intervention in the African country to five, the French Presidency announced in a statement on Sunday.
French President Francois Hollande "addresses to his family and loved ones the deepest condolences and respect of the whole nation," the statement said, paying tribute to the French forces involved in "the final and most difficult phase of their mission" in Mali.
The deceased French corporal was from the 1st Marine Infantry Regiment of Angouleme.
France kicked off its military intervention in Mali on Jan. 11 on the request of Mali authorities. Since the start of the France-led military operation in the country, 11, 4,000 French soldiers have been deployed in the former colony to oust al-Qaida-linked insurgents and to help restore the country's sovereignty.
So far, five French servicemen have been killed.
France has started planning its troop's withdrawal by handing over the mission to UN peacekeepers in the coming months.